Accuracy in Media

In 1995, the worst act of terrorism on American soil, prior to the 9/11 disaster, was committed in Oklahoma City. On April 19, terrorists blew up the Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 Americans and wounded scores more. Not long after the bombing, Timothy McVeigh was arrested about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City and a few days later Terry Nichols surrendered to police in Herrington, Kansas. With those arrests, the Justice Department shut down any further investigation into who had committed this awful crime.

But like the Kennedy assassination, many Americans remained deeply skeptical about the government’s assurances that McVeigh and Nichols acted alone in this horrible crime. And for good reason, as it seems that the FBI ignored important investigative leads, failed to interview potentially significant witnesses, and destroyed the Murrah building before experts could examine the crime scene. The involvement of a John Doe Number Two in the bombing has remained a simmering controversy. Skeptics ask why the FBI canceled an all-points-bulletin for a Middle Eastern male subject or subjects fleeing the scene issued in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Numerous eyewitness accounts have identified Middle Eastern males in the company of McVeigh in the days and weeks before the bombing.

Dr. Frederic Whitehurst’s allegations against the FBI crime lab sparked a Justice Department investigation that found the lab had provided “inaccurate pro-prosecution testimony in major cases including Oklahoma City.” Retired Air Force General Benton K. Partin, an explosive expert, disputed the FBI’s theory that the damage to the Murrah Building was caused by a single truck-bomb. His analyses were later endorsed by numerous physicists, physical chemists, and experts in structural mechanics as well as a series of live tests conducted at Eglin Air Force Base. These are just some of the lingering questions about the 1995 bombing.

Beyond covering McVeigh’s execution and the FBI foul-ups that delayed it, the mainstream media have devoted little effort to digging into any of these questions. Concerned citizens have had to go to Internet media outlets like World Net Daily and Newsmax or be on the lookout for the occasional investigative report in obscure outlets like the Los Angeles Weekly or the London Evening Standard. In early September, the Wall Street Journal did one column on its editorial page about possible Iraqi involvement in Oklahoma City and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but seemed to lose interest after that.

One columnist who has refused to let the story die is James Patterson, an editorial writer at the Indianapolis Star. Patterson was one of the first to report a potential crack in the wall of silence erected around the Oklahoma City bombing by the government and the elite media. Twice in recent months, Patterson has reported that Chairman Dan Burton’s House Government Reform Committee investigators have uncovered the possible whereabouts of videotapes and photographs of the Murrah Federal Building from the day of the bombing. The Final Report of the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee (OKBIC) noted the existence of such tapes, but the Justice Department has adamantly refused to release them, even in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Burton believes that the tapes and photographs may be held in the archives of Naval Intelligence at the Washington Navy Yard and he has issued a subpoena to the Secretary of the Navy to obtain them. The tapes are said to contain video of a John Doe Number Two getting out on the passenger side of the Ryder truck just prior to the explosion.

Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy told the Philadelphia Inquirer that talk of withheld videotapes is “ludicrous and insulting.” Kennedy says that agents nailed down “98 to 99 percent” of McVeigh and Nichols’ movements in the months before the bombing and he is absolutely convinced they acted alone. Cate McCauley, who worked on McVeigh’s appeal, goes beyond Kennedy and charges that talk of Middle Eastern men helping McVeigh is “perhaps the worse case of misinformation and pandering” she has come across. The allegations, she says, are easily refutable and those who promote them are “standing on the graves of thousands of people.”

A quick, easy way to resolve the controversy over John Doe Number 2 would be to simply release the videotapes and photographs and let the American public judge for itself. Release the tapes and bring this case to closure. The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing deserve nothing less.




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